By Doug Binder • Doug Binder • 

Local wine race caters to specific group

It is part athletic challenge, part wine country tour, and it all fits neatly into a wine industry marketing plan.

At the end of the summer, the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is geared to cater toward the same crowd.

“It’s a marketing piece,” Fueled By Fine Wine race director Chris Nagy said. “At the end of the day, why we are here is to sell wine and expose people from all over the country to the vineyards here. People are coming from all 50 states. They’ll stay in hotels, wine taste and get a sense of place.”

This is the fourth year of a boutique half-marathon that was ranked 13th best by Runner’s World magazine in February.

The 13.1-mile course changes from year to year, to highlight different vineyards above Dundee. Sunday’s race begins at 7 a.m. and runners will take off at Bilick Park and then begin a winding ascent of 800 feet to the top of Dundee Hills. Along the way, they will dirty their shoes with the area’s famous red clay and also move through lush scenery and sweeping vistas.

“This is the (race) where people stop half way through, grab their phone and take a photo with their friends,” Nagy said.

That isn’t to say that the race doesn’t have a competitive element. Last year, Sage Canaday, a national-class marathoner with Yamhill County roots, showed up and won by more than seven minutes.

The reason why half marathons are popping up in proximity to vineyards is demographics. The profile of the typical wine consumer and the recreational runner are mirror images of one another, Nagy said.

They’re usually 30-50 years old, healthy and active, they have comfortable incomes, and more than half are women.

In fact, 74 percent of the registered entries (the entry fee was $95) for Sunday’s race are women. The race was capped at 1,200 and it sold out. Last year there were 977 finishers.

They will run on the properties of The Four Graces, Archery Summit, Torii Mor and Lange Estate vineyards. They will also run next to several others as well. After a forgiving five-mile descent on Worden Hill Road to the finish line they will re-fuel on brownies, bagels, bananas, cheeses, baguettes, etc.

And beyond that, they may collect their medal, share their race stories and enjoy a 5,000-square foot tent supported by 25 local winery vendors.

Running through the vineyard is a way for wine consumers to gain an extra sense of connection to the bottles they may purchase, Nagy said.

That aspect, being more of a trail run than a road race, is one of the ways Fueled By Fine Wine differentiates its event from the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, which is a point-to-point race from Stoller Vineyard outside Dayton, through Lafayette to Carlton.

“We try to connect as many vineyards as we can, instead of using city streets and paved roads,” Nagy said.

The course itself is also more challenging.

“Someone told me last year they thought a sadistic track coach had made this course,” Nagy said.

In 2012, it was a punishing uphill climb from the start and then downhill on the second half.

This year there is a bit more fluctuation.

“The first eight miles are hard,” she said. “But it’s more up-down-up this year. Once they get to about eight miles they can roll down. A lot of people walk the hills and run the straights and downhills. But when you’re done you feel like you accomplished something.”

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